Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sixth Party Congress Guidelines published

The final draft of the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines for the Party and the Revolution, the key policy document approved by the Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) in April, has been published in booklet form and as a downloadable PDF file. Millions of Cubans are now studying the document. Yesterday's New York Times reported that "Cubans lined up at kiosks to pay the equivalent of 12 cents for booklets outlining 313 guidelines".

Simultaneously, the PCC commission responsible for drafting and editing the Guidelines has published a detailed explanation of all the changes incorporated into the final draft on the basis of the public debates that took place in Cuban workplaces, study centres and neighbourhoods between December and February — involving more than 8.9 million participants* out of a population of some 11.2 million — and by the five PCC Congress commissions. 

The final document was approved unanimously by the nearly 1,000 Congress delegates. The whole process has been an unprecedented exercise of socialist democracy. Unprecedented in its depth, scope and mass participation not only in Cuba but in the entire history of the world socialist movement. The Bolsheviks under Lenin and Trotsky had their party and Soviet congresses but nothing like what has taken place in Cuba on the basis of half a century of socialist revolution. And it goes without saying that the years-long process of public debate and consensus-building that culminated in the Sixth PCC Congress and the adoption of the final version of the Guidelines leaves capitalist "democracy" far behind. This will be obvious, I think, to any thoughtful, unprejudiced person who takes the time to study not just the Guidelines themselves but the accompanying explanatory document. 

Making both documents available in English is an important task for the Cuba solidarity movement. I'm going to start by translating the accompanying explanatory document, which I assume the Cubans won't bother translating into English and other languages because of the relatively small international audience for such a detailed explanation of the changes from the earlier draft to the final version of the Guidelines (I'll try to confirm this). By referring back to the English translation of the earlier draft you'll be able to follow the changes in the context of the overall document. I'll publish a translation of the explanatory document in instalments on this blog starting tomorrow.

Together with Paul Greene, who kindly proofread the translation, I took upon myself the pleasurable task of translating the draft Guidelines that were circulated for public discussion in October. It took me several weeks to complete during the university holidays when I had more time. Since the explanatory document runs to 48 pages it too will take weeks to translate ... unless it's a collaborative project.

So I'd like to make an appeal for socialist collaboration: is there anyone out there who is willing to help with this translation work, assuming that I can confirm that the Cubans don't intend to translate them? You'd have the satisfaction of helping to bring to the English-speaking world two of the most important political documents coming out of revolutionary Cuba since 1959, and your contribution will be acknowledged. Many solidarity activists and all serious students of the Cuban Revolution will find them essential reading. The only requirement is that you are a reasonably competent translator (with or without formal qualifications). If you can help please let me know.

A note on the status of the Guidelines that have just been published: they are a recommendation from the PCC Congress for what should become state policy. They will not become law until they are ratified by the highest body of state power in Cuba, the National Assembly of People's Power. This is not simply a matter of National Assembly deputies meeting and voting in favour of the Guidelines. Specific legislative and probably constitutional changes will be required.

You can download the Spanish versions of the Guidelines and the explanatory document from the homepage (top right corner) of the Cuban communist youth daily Juventud Rebelde.

*Some participants attended more than one meeting, for example in their workplace as well as in their neighbourhood, so the number of people who participated in the debates would be less than 8.9 million. 


  1. "The final document was approved unanimously by the nearly 1,000 Congress delegates."!

    I was imagining that the debate would be more fraught than this result indicates. How was this unanimity achieved?!

  2. The unanimity of the final vote in the Congress was a reflection not so much of unanimity — not all the delegates would have agreed with every word of every Guideline — but rather a reflection of delegate's confidence in the process of drafting, debating and amending the Guidelines. It's worth noting that not all the votes in the five Congress commissions that discussed the Guidelines, in which final amendments were proposed, debated and voted on, were unanimous. For example, the vote in one commission on whether or not municipalities should be given some scope to modify the rate at which they tax the self-employed and small businesses according to local economic conditions. Most delegates voted in favour and quite a few, as seen in the telecast of the proceedings, voted against.

  3. I should add: the only principled basis for a Congress delegate to vote against the Guidelines would be if they disagreed with the overall direction of the changes proposed in the document. They would then have been obliged to propose an alternative set of guidelines for adoption by the Congress. Since no such alternative document emerged during the process of elaborating the Guidelines, it's not surprising that the final vote was unanimous. But again, this does not mean that every delegate agreed with every Guideline. It means that despite such disagreements on detail there was a genuine consensus among the delegates on the overall direction of the changes.


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